Tanking is not for everyone in MMO’s, but it can be gratifying to hold enemies in place, while allowing your healers and dps to do their jobs. Without you, you’ll never get harder difficulty activities (trials, vet dungeons) completed.

One of the best things about The Elder Scrolls Online is that you can play any of the four classes any way that you like; the traditional ‘tank’ class (Dragonknight) can be played as DPS, while the traditional thief (Nightblade) class can be played as a tank. I thrive on making and playing characters that break out of the normal mold.

The Nightblade Sap Tank is one of those builds that breaks misconceptions and prove to be an effective and unique character design. This build may not interest players that do not enjoy rapid weapon switching and paying attention to buff timers.

If you like videos instead, go here for the author’s insights.

This entry is more about mid-game casual player, who has reached CP160, and want an effective tank build.

As a Nightblade, you’ll split your attribute points rather evenly, approximately 20 in magicka, health and stamina. You’ll need a little bit of everything to use this build. Eating purple food will help you be more effective as well b/c it’ll expand all the resource pools.


This is technically your back bar, you can use any weapon, but I enjoy using a Destruction staff for times that I can’t reach my enemies. The bar includes:
1. Mirage – to dodge attacks by 20%
2. Siphoning Attacks – Explained below
3. Refreshing Path – Explained below
4. Vigor – An extremely long/grindy/difficult (your choice) skill that is an aoe HoT that uses STAMINA.
5. Stalwart Guard – Explained below
Ultimate – Aggressive Warhorn – a long buff that increases crit damage by 30%, great against bosses.


This is your main bar and you’ll be always using a Sword and Shield. Once you’ve used your back bar to cast 1 – 3, you’ll typically either Taunt the enemy (via 2) or start spamming Sap Essence (#1) to hit as many enemies as possible (explained more in detail below).
1. Sap Essence – Aoe damage, that heals and buffs you
2. Pierce Armor – Your melee taunt
3. Heroic Strike – Its snares, but the main reason you use this is to generate Ultimate which you save towards the Aggressive Warhorn. Always make sure you have this on.
4. Swallow Soul – when you are against only 1 enemy (typically a boss monster), you are weaving with this skill. Spam spam spam. With the appropriate amount of magicka recovery (~700), you can spam this skill while weaving forever. This heals you as well and provides a buff when slotted, but its more for damage.
5. Stalwart Guard – you’ll want it on both bars so you don’t lose the buff that you place on allies when you switch bars.
Ultimate: Soul Harvest – you only have this on this bar for the morph ability that gives you extra Ultimate per kill. Faster Ultimate gain = more Aggressive Warhorn use.


Seducer Set – Despite being a tank and using your melee taunt skill and blocking heavy attacks, you’ll be spamming two spells quite frequently (Sap Essence and Swallow Soul) and need ways to stretch your magicka pool.

Duneripper Set – There are many good second sets, but I like DR because it allows you to receive more healing and since you’ll be blocking a lot, take less damage.
The lynch pin of this whole build revolves around using Siphoning Attacks. By activating it, and using an aoe, you can have a very high chance of spamming it indefinitely because you are gaining back magicka (hopefully with each attack). The more enemies around, the better. Sap Essence is a great aoe, as it not only does damage, but it heals you AND your party members AND buffs you. The trick is the hold the block button and then spam Sap Essence; you’ll be blocking most attacks AND doing aoe damage and hopefully holding agro to most enemies.

It is always important to be wearing heavy armor when being a tank imho, and it works out even better for the Nightblade due to the Shadow Barrier passive skill. Triggered with Refreshing Path, you are buffed for both physical and spell damage, aoe area-HoT heal AND do damage? Great value and synergy off skills and passives.

Another difficult and time consuming skill to acquire only for the fact that you have to do pvp to get it. But once you do, you’ll never do a dungeon again without it (maybe). The main reason is that you can give you melee dps party member a buff that’ll increase their crit damage by 12%. Most dps builds revolve around high crit chance, so they’ll make use of this quite a lot.


Cheap to cast.. does good damage upfront and then healing you is just icing on the cake. I personally like it for the Minor Vitality; coupled with Duneripper set, thats 16% extra healing received, not too shabby considered that are other ways to add to that as well.

And there you have it, the highlights of the Nightblade Sap (Essence) Tank build. It’s great if you if you have add-ons that show your buff/debuff timers and if you can concentrate and switch weapon sets frequently.